by Disney Magic Diva
We booked a trip to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa! Now what? How do I prepare for my magical stay in paradise?
I saw a meme the other day that depicted the differences in how people get ready for a trip to Disneyland Resort versus Walt Disney World Resort. For Disneyland, you can just “Go!” and pretty much make decisions on a whim, having the day fairly unstructured. While that is certainly an option at Walt Disney World, it’s not advised if you want to be able to see and do most things on your list. Instead, for Disney World, you need to do A LOT of advanced planning and research. Dining and FastPass+ reservations made months in advance, along with day-by-day (and sometimes hour-by-hour) itineraries are strongly recommended. Both destinations offer magical vacations – they just differ in how to plan for your stay.
So, when we finally booked our first trip to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa I wondered what kind of planning strategy I would need. Lots of research later, it turns out it’s the “Disneyland” method. (At least I hope it is. This IS our first trip after all, and so tune in later to see if I was right!). It makes complete sense, though, that for a trip to a tropical paradise you shouldn’t have to map out every hour of the day. Grab a swimsuit, sunscreen, good book, and you’re set; right?
Naturally, though, I couldn’t resist the pre-trip preparations. It’s part of the fun of travel –, especially to new destinations. Planning (and shopping!) for your vacation helps to extend the excitement.
We booked our trip about three months ago, and our countdown is now just days away. Here’s what I’ve done to prepare:
Booked Ground Transportation
Aulani Resort is about a 30-minute drive from the airport, so we needed to plan for ground transportation. Since we’ve been to Oahu before we decided against renting a car. We wanted to completely enjoy the resort, and not spend our days traveling around the island. Also, we certainly weren’t anxious to pay the $37/day parking fee! (This fee is waived if you are a Disney Vacation Club member and using points for your resort stay.) Uber/Lyft is an option from the airport, but for a comparable price, the resort offers a shared shuttle service. It’s not Disney operated like a Minnie Van, but it is contracted with Disney similar to the Magical Express at Walt Disney World. We chose the shared van.
I’ve read everything on the Aulani website and studied the maps of the resort. We know the layout at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but this is a new location for us. I want to be able to find our way around! I also wanted to learn about the activities available and see what reservations I might need.
Diva Tip: Many of the activities need reservations, but much like a cruise, you make them once you arrive at the resort. There is one important exception. If you are traveling with children under 12, you may want to register them for Aunty’s Beach House – the kids club at Aulani. This trip is just my husband and I, so we won’t be utilizing Aunty’s (although I wish I could go – it looks like tons of fun!!)
When we made our room reservation, the cast member encouraged us to book table service meals. We didn’t at the time, but after thinking about it, we decided we’d like to do a sunset dinner at ‘AMA’AMA. And a few weeks after we booked ‘AMA’AMA, we decided to do a luau. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get a reservation on such “short” notice, but we were able to book both about 40 days in advance.
In anticipation of a long flight, I purchased a neck pillow. I’ve never used one before, although I’ve always been intrigued. But our flights to Disneyland and Walt Disney World are rarely more than 3 hours, so I never thought they were worth the space they take-up in my carry-on. Facing a long flight though, I thought it may be a wise investment. I found this “pillow” on Amazon and was intrigued with its compact design.
I also made sure I had a good battery charger for my electronics. They will definitely be getting a nice, long workout with so much time in flight.
Since Disney Parks don’t allow selfie sticks, I didn’t own one – until now. I want to be sure to have lots of beach shots!
I also purchased a floating waterproof bag for my phone. The lazy river at Aulani will be a favorite spot I think! Who could resist, right? I want to be able to bring my phone with me as I float along.
Of course, while floating along, I want to be sure my towel doesn’t blow away on my lounge chair, so I purchased some jumbo towel clips. These will also be useful for clipping the window drapes together in the room to prevent sunlight from waking us too early.
Reserve a one-day car rental
I mentioned how we didn’t want to spend our days traveling around the island, so we didn’t book a rental car for transportation to and from the airport. I did, however, want to take a morning to drive up to the North Shore, and maybe stop at the Dole Plantation. So, we booked a car rental for one day. It will be so convenient since there’s an Alamo counter right at Aulani!
That’s all the planning we did! Hopefully, we didn’t miss anything crucial. But just like Disneyland or Walt Disney World, even if the planning doesn’t quite work out, we are still at a Disney Resort. It will be fine.
Are you ready to plan a vacation to Aulani? Patricia at All for Dreams Travel can help get you there – or Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise, Adventures by Disney – wherever you want to go! Contact her today for a free quote!
**Featured photo courtesy Doctor Disney Devo
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